We haven’t heard the word ‘omnishambles’ in a while, but it still sums up Conservative Government ‘reform’ plans perfectly.
Tories don’t understand that their proposals would wreck the UK’s public service, legal and financial systems, and ministers like Michael Gove (Jeremy Hunt is another one) don’t understand that they can’t just impose on the rest of us any silliness that pops into their heads.
The law firms who are standing up against Gove’s “shambolic” plans are to be praised. If only the teaching profession had enjoyed the benefit of such expertise when he was education secretary!
Michael Gove’s plans to reform legal aid by cutting the number of solicitors providing services in criminal courts is in tatters after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was forced to postpone a new system of contracts because of a rise in litigation by law firms claiming the entire bidding process was deeply flawed.
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) planned to introduce new “crime duty contracts” in January. The MoJ previously said it had concluded a tendering and procurement process which reduced the number of legal aid contracts awarded to firms from 1,600 to 527. A reduction in legal aid work payments was a key part of the reform package.
The LAA claimed 519 of the successful bidders were happy with the new contracts but scores of legal challenges to the way the process has been run have now derailed the scheme. Legal challenges have been launched in 69 out of 85 procurement areas across England and Wales.
Although the MoJ said it “remained committed” to introducing the new contract system “at the earliest opportunity”, it is understood there are serious concerns inside the Treasury that the MoJ faces “expensive and lengthy legal battles” it is likely to lose.
“Michael [Gove] was politely asked to back off and see if a compromise deal could be found rather than risk tens of millions of pounds on risky litigation,” a Treasury source said. “The Treasury has other priorities. This isn’t one of them.”
News of the postponement came as a second LAA whistleblower emerged with serious criticisms of the bid process which he described as “shambolic and unprofessional.”
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